Chinese director investigated for having seven children

It's claimed that 'Hero' helmsman Zhang Yimou has broken the country's strict family planning laws

Chinese authorities are investigating claims that one of the country's top film directors Zhang Yimou has fathered seven children.

Reports have been circulating that Yimou has contravened the strict family planning laws in China, alleging that he has seven children, from his two previous marriages and from relationships with two other women.

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Yimou... pictured with Christian Bale, star of his film 'The Flowers of War' (Copyright: Rex)

“We are trying to confirm the online rumors,” a representative from the Wuxi family planning committee told AP.

If the 61-year-old director is found to have broken the law – which allows just one child per couple in metropolitan areas, or two for rural areas if your firstborn is a girl – he could face a fine of up to 160 million yuan, which is in the region of £16 million.

The fine is for 'social compensation' and is reportedly based on a percentage of earnings.

The news has caused a major stir in China.

"Why is China unable to win the world's respect?" said writer Christopher Jing. “Rich people with groups of mistresses, old celebrities changing wives, Zhang Yimou getting so many privileges.

"Four women and seven kids, if this was an ordinary person they would have killed you or fined you an unreasonable amount of money, but he is fine... he is no better than ordinary people, such an unfair world will never gain respect.”

Yimou is highly respected in his field, having directed hits including 'House of Flying Daggers', 'Hero' and 'A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop', an adaptation of the Coen brothers' 'Blood Simple'.

His most recent film 'The Flowers of War', starred Christian Bale, and he also famously directed the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.